The last draft promised a historic vintage of receivers and so far the promises seem to be on track. The one who seems to stand out, the Canadian Chase Claypool, had to wait while 10 of his peers were claimed before him. It was the Steelers who had a happy hand at this position where the harvest smiles on them yet again.
No less than 13 wide-spread wingers were claimed from the 64 picks in the initial two rounds of the draft last April, unprecedented.
Six of them heard their names spoken in the first round, including Henry Ruggs (Raiders), Jerry Jeudy (Broncos), CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys), Jalen Reagor (Eagles), Justin Jefferson (Vikings) and Brandon Aiyuk (49ers) . So far, all but Reagor, who has to deal with an injury, have had some success at different levels.
After that first-round cohort, Claypool continued to chuckle, he who was picked after Tee Higgins (Bengals), Michael Pittman (Colts), Laviska Shenault (Jaguars) and KJ Hamler (Broncos).
The wait will have obviously been worth it. Even though the season is too young to cry out, Claypool was quick to win with his beefy build and underrated speed.
The Abbotsford, BC native, product of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the NCAA, already claims four touchdowns on 13 receptions and 261 yards in addition to a rushing touchdown. His average of 20.1 yards per reception shows that he is already a weapon the defenses cannot ignore.
A long trend
It must be said that the organization of the Steelers is starting to get used to it. General manager Kevin Colbert has been in charge of the team’s draft since 2000. On 22 occasions, he has taken the receiver position.
He’s obviously cracked the air a few times, but if he did come at bat in baseball his average would be astronomical.
The harvest began in 2002 with Antwan Randle El. Without becoming a legend, he was very helpful with his versatility. In 2006, he staked it out with Santonio Holmes, whose spectacular Super Bowl 43 catch cleared the Cardinals.
Good moves followed one another with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Martavis Bryant and more recently, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson and Claypool.
What’s even more astonishing is that of all the players listed, only Holmes was a first-round pick, which shows the Steelers have a knack for finding some distant gems.
The Big Ben factor
Obviously, the presence of a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger, since 2004, has greatly facilitated the development of these receivers. Some of them, exiled elsewhere after their initial successes in Pittsburgh, were quickly forgotten.
When “Big Ben” is on the sidelines, like last year, the guns are also sometimes silent, as was the case for Smith-Schuster last season.
Roethlisberger’s presence certainly doesn’t hurt, but the Steelers have had a knack for developing good ‘house’ talent for years. Chase Claypool seems to be the new descendant of this line.
5 points to watch out for
1. Garrett and the steelers
A year ago, the Browns-Steelers rivalry took a violent turn when defensive end Myles Garrett hit quarterback Mason Rudolph with his helmet. Garrett had been suspended for the remainder of the season and he will return for the first time to his enemies in Pittsburgh. We can bet the Steelers will be ultra-motivated to make life difficult for Garrett, who has six sacks.
2. Rodgers dominates
In four games, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers still hasn’t thrown an interception and he already has 13 touchdowns. In history, only four pivots threw more touchdown passes before committing an interception, namely Milt Plum (16 in 1960), Alex Smith (18 in 2017), Nick Foles (19 in 2013) and Peyton Manning (20 in 2013). Rodgers’ opponents, the Buccaneers, have already had six interceptions.
3. The monster Donald
Rams tackle Aaron Donald leads the NFL in the sack column at 7.5. If he adds at least a half-sack against the 49ers, he will become only the fourth player in history to have at least eight sacks in each of his first seven seasons on the Tour. He would find himself in excellent company with his predecessors DeMarcus Ware, Reggie White and Derrick Thomas.
4. Always lifts
Since the start of the season, the NFL has seen many comebacks. In fact, the 2020 season is the first so far that at least one team per week has had to close a deficit of at least 16 points to ultimately win. Week 5 alone saw four teams that wiped out deficits of at least 13 points: the Saints (17 points), Cowboys (14 points), as well as the Bears and Seahawks (13 points).
5. Kyler Murray in Dallas
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray will make a homecoming when his team take on the Cowboys in Dallas. Murray grew up in Texas, where he never lost (42-0) in high school to Allen High School. He’s even won three state championships, all presented at AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys. On the college scene, he also won both of his games at the same stadium, once with Texas A&M and the other time with Oklahoma. It remains to be seen if among the pros, the places will still bring him luck.